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UR LIFE: 4 Tips for Delivering Bad News

Written by Malyka Cardwell 

This article was originally published on Be sure to check out their site for professional relationship and sex advice. 

It is impossible to avoid bad news. There will always be painful moments in life and revealing these moments to others can be equally as hard. No perfect time exists to tell someone unpleasant information, but there are some more appropriate moments. Here are a few tips that will help ease the process of revealing bad news:

1. Process your own feelings first. Bad news is usually difficult for the bearer and the recipient. It is important to have somewhat of a grasp on the situation and your feelings before you attempt to inform someone else. You want to make sure you give a person the opportunity to process the unpleasant news, not your projected emotions.

2. Be mindful of timing. If you have bad news for someone, it is important to judge whether or not the news is pressing or if it can wait. Some situations are too urgent to be delayed and must be told immediately. If the situation isn’t urgent, try to wait for a time when the person is mentally and physically available to receive the information. For instance, telling someone that their spouse is cheating on them directly before they go into work is not ideal. Wait for a time when they’ll at least have a moment to attempt to process the news.

3. Prepare for a different reaction than you may have anticipated. Sometimes the bearer of bad news ends up the most beat up. It is easy for displaced emotions to be taken out on the person who delivered the message. Try not to be offended. It is also important to realize that things will not always change. For example, you may tell your best friend that he or she is being cheated on with the expectation that the relationship will end. There is a good chance that things won’t play out this way. Often times people expect for others to handle situations in the exact way that they would. This rarely happens. Instead of critiquing the differences learn to respect them.

4. Be present within reason. It is likely that the person you delivered bad news to will need someone consistent in their corner. Be as supportive as you can be without becoming drained. It is hard to be a part of a support system when you have nothing left to give. Know when to lend a shoulder and know when to create space. Patience and empathy are valuable assets during this time.
The therapists here at Philadelphia MFT are well aware of the difficulties that go into disclosing bad news. This process can be stressful, problematic, and create a series of different reactions. If you or someone you know is having difficulty handling any form of bad news, please do not hesitate to contact us!

Malyka Cardwell is a Couple and Family Therapist based in the Philadelphia. Malyka graduated with a BS in Psychology and a minor in English from Old Dominion University. She then went on to study at Thomas Jefferson University’s Couple and Family Therapy program with a specialization in Sex Therapy. To contact her for professional help email her here:

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